January is a month that signifies new beginnings, new resolutions. There is an individual as well as collective effervescence of renewal. Catholics enjoyed a similar period of renewal, of collective reimagining, in the aftermath of World War II.
Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of late medieval and Renaissance paintings and sculptures depict the Virgin Mary with one breast exposed as she is nursing the infant Christ. The origins of the image are disputed, but whatever its origins, depictions of the lactating Virgin acquired new meaning and new urgency in mid-14th-century Tuscany. In communities under siege from plague, wars and malnutrition, the Virgin’s breast was a symbol of God’s loving provision of life, the nourishment and care that sustain life, and the salvation that promises eternal life.
Roman Catholic and Anglican leaders have announced newfound agreement on the Virgin Mary, seeing her as a role model and “Christ’s foremost disciple.”